Thursday, 16 May 2013

To Be Read List May/June 2013

Hey guys! I just posted a quick video on YouTube of my To Be Read List for May and June. Check it out and let me know if you've read any of the books on there and what you thought. Also, please remember to comment, rate, share and subscribe to my videos! Thanks :)


Saturday, 11 May 2013

The Iron King, Maurice Druon

Publishers: Harper

Pages: 328

Main Characters:

Philip the Fair, Queen Isabella of England,
Spinello Tolomei, Guccio Baglioni

After reading on George R. R. Martin’s blog that this series of books was the inspiration behind the A Song of Ice and Fire series, I eagerly picked up this book from my local bookstore. As Martin said, the characters in this tale were as clever and as cunning as any in the Game of Thrones, however, the fact that all of them were real people made this book extremely appealing to me because you all know how much I love historical fiction. Alongside this, the fact that the novel was written by a French author about French history also had a great appeal to me because most of the historical fiction I’ve read has always been written by Englishmen and therefore, I think always making the stories a little one sided!

The book takes place in the early 14th century and is based around the court of Philip the Fair, or as some call him the ‘Iron King’. King Philip and his advisors have just managed to finally murder the last of the innocent Templar Knights that had been living in France since the last Crusade. In an attempt to seize their money and power, Philip and his advisors had created false accusations of heresy, sodomy and many other vile acts to create a case against the once respected Templars. However, just before the Grand Master of the Knights, Jacques De Molay is finally burned, he puts a curse on Philip’s family (the Capets) which curses their line to the 13th generation.

Meanwhile in England, the new Queen Isabella (Philip’s daughter) is plotting against her three sister-in-laws. There are rumours circulating around Paris and even in London that her three sister-in-laws; Marguerite, Jeanne and Blanche have lovers other than their husbands. If proved to be true, this outrage could bring great shame to the House of Capet. Isabella uses her quick mind to try and find out if the rumours are true and punish her sister-in-laws for the shame they are bringing to France.

The final story in the novel is that of Guccio Baglioni who is the nephew of a wealthy Italian banker called Spinello Tolomei. Guccio is tasked with sending a message to Queen Isabella to help her find evidence against her sister-in-laws. On his way back from England, Guccio is also given the chore of retrieving a debt from a noble family that has fallen on hard times. However, when he gets to the family’s house, he falls in love with their daughter and gives them a further year to pay off their debts. This act of kindness helps Guccio and his uncle later on in the novel after it is discovered that King Philip is moving to expel all of the Italian bankers from France. Tolomei tasks his nephew with finding a safe place to hide a document that could be used to blackmail one of the King’s advisors into preventing the expulsion. Guccio decides the best place to hide the item is at his new love’s run down home.

As I said before I was excited to read this book because of the amount of social intrigue George R. R. Martin said there was in it. If I’m been honest, this aspect of the novel was a little disappointing for me because there was no point in the book where I was on the edge of my seat wondering what was going to happen next, like I always am when I’m reading Martin’s novels. However, as a historical fiction novel I thought it was brilliant and as Martin said, the characters in the book are great because they are so evil, na├»ve and cunning like many of the characters in the Game of Thrones, however, these characters are all real, making the events in the book seem even more cold and hard-heated then they already are! Moreover, the events of this time were interesting to read because it was the prelude to the Hundred Years War, which I'm fascinated with and it was interesting to see these events from a French perspective.

All in all, this was a good historical fiction novel but I think it was a little misleading with some of the marketing on the book. I am definitely going to continue the series and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next novel! I would suggest this book to anyone who is a historical fiction fan and enjoys books such as Bernard Cornwell’s Thomas Hookton novels. I would also suggest it to fans of George R. R. Martin and I’d be really interested to hear what you thought of the book, so please let me know if you have read it!

For author’s official HarperCollins page click here.

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

The Scarlet Thief, Paul Fraser Collard- Sneak Peak/Preview

Publishers: Headline

Pages: 281

Main Characters:

Jack Lark, Captain Sloames, Colour Sergeant Slater

Hey guys! I’ve got a sneak peak/preview for you today of Paul Fraser Collard’s brand new book The Scarlet Thief which is published by headline and will be realised tomorrow (9th May). I hope you enjoy my review!

Jack Lark was just a normal boy from the poor east-end of London who, sick of lifting heavy beer barrels in his mother’s pub, decided he wanted something more.  For Jack, that opportunity came when the recruiting officers of the British Army arrived in Jack’s borough looking incredibly impressive and promising the young Londoner a life of excitement and adventure with postings in the vast British Empire. So, one day, Jack plucked up the courage to leave his mother’s pub and join the army, however once enlisted, Jack realises that the life of a soldier is not as exciting as he hoped…

The year is 1854 and Britain has not been at war since the days of Napoleon and Wellington. Therefore, most British troops are not in active service but are instead on garrison duty in the heartland of England. Unluckily for Jack, his new unit is garrisoned in Aldershot and Jack soon finds out that garrison life can be extremely boring. However, trying to better himself and trying to impress a young woman, Jack manages to get promoted to the station of Orderly under Captain Sloames. Being new at his job, Jack is not as efficient as other orderlies in the camp, but with an understanding Captain like Arthur Sloames, he soon learns what his duties are.

 Nevertheless, just as Jack believes he is getting somewhere in the army he becomes a target for the rough and bullying Colour Sergeant Slater who has a grudge against Jack for been promoted and therefore, no longer been under Slater’s control. The Colour Sergeant has been known in the camp to frame other soldiers to get his revenge, so Jack is as cautious as he can be around Slater. However, after a fight between the two soldiers, which accidently results in a death, Jack has to escape the camp or face a severe punishment. Luckily, Captain Sloames helps Jack again and offers him the opportunity to join the division of troops that have been deployed to the Crimea to fight the Russians.

Jack happily accepts, as it will get him away from Slater. However, on the road to Dover, Captain Sloames is struck by a fever which ends in his death. Jack is at a loss of what to do. He thought the war in Russia would lead him to glory and riches but with Sloames’s death, that future is uncertain. On the other hand, he cannot return to the garrison for fear of punishment, which could see him whipped and Slater, which could see him killed. Jack has to make a decision on his own future and eventually makes one that will see him go to the Crimea, not just as an Orderly, but as the new Captain of the King’s Royal Fusiliers!

As a first book in a new historical series, I thought Fraser Collard did an excellent job. At first seeing this book was based in the Crimean War, I assumed that the novel would take place around the Siege of Sevastopol, which is probably the best know event in the war after the Charge of the Light Brigade. However, I was totally wrong, as Fraser Collard bases the novel at the very start of the war with the first battle between the allies (Britain and France) and the Russians at the Battle of the Alma. I really liked this fact because I did not know that much about the battle and found reading Fraser Collard’s description of it both entertaining and exciting but also really interesting, making me want to find out more about this period of history!

I also really enjoyed the story in the novel as it was the type of zero-hero plot which I always love in a historical fiction book. I think this is why the book has been compared to Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe novels so often (along with the fact it in based in the 19th Century). However, I did like uniqueness of how Jack became a hero in this novel and how his personality and attitude still manages to shine through even when he becomes an officer. Plus, I thought the ending set up the next novel in the series really well, making me want to read more of Jack’s tale!

All in all, this was an exciting and interesting novel which I really enjoyed reading!  If you are a fan of British military history and like novels such Sharpe, then I think you’ll love this book so make sure to check it out!

For author’s official website click here.

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